Shenandoah City Council maintains opposition to Research Forest overpass

The Shenandoah City Council has opted not to support a plan to construct an overpass at Research Forest Drive and Grogan's Mill Road following a discussion of the project a council meeting March 27. The council's opposition hurts the project's chances to receive federal funding during this round of Houston-Galveston Area Council's 2013-2016 Transportation Improvement Plan projects.

The council voted 4-1 against the removal of the opposition after Precinct 3 County Commissioner James Noack voiced his support of the project and more than half a dozen residents expressed concerns in opposition of the overpass.

Noack said his engineering firm believes there is a need for this project due to the nearby development of Hughes Landing, the Chicago Bridge and Iron expansion project, the proposed Hyatt hotel and growth in Town Center. He said he was surprised to learn Shenandoah was not made aware of the project sooner and emphasized the need for better communication and for South Montgomery County municipalities to work together.

"I'd like for you to think about the future of the county, about the future of Shenandoah," Noack said.

Mayor Wes Stephens said the council's initial opposition to the overpass was due to a lack of knowledge about the project and its impact, admitting the nearby area of the intersection will change in the near future.

"Any way you look at it, there's three or four high rise buildings going into that area," Stephens said. "That intersection is not going to be the same intersection."

Bleyl & Associates—the firm hired by the city to examine the project—expressed concern initial components of the project, such as environmental studies, are incomplete. Residents questioned whether turn lanes, better light signalization and other improvements could alleviate traffic congestion at the intersection, while many said the benefits of the project did not outweigh the potential problems the overpass could create.

Residents also produced a petition signed by more than 100 residents of The Woodlands and Shenandoah in opposition of the project, which Shenandoah City Administrator Greg Smith said had been sent to The Woodlands Township President Don Norrell.

Smith said The Woodlands Development Company approved the city's request to add a u-turn lane to the project and to allow the city to participate in future discussions regarding the project. While an environmental study on the overpass' effect on the community had not been performed, he said, the study would have to be part of the project in the future once funding had been identified.

The city's opposition to the project could prevent it from receiving federal funding in the near future. However, Smith said, federal money is not the only source which could fund the project, citing The Woodlands Township, The Woodlands Road Utility District No. 1 and The Woodlands Development Company as possible funding sources.

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